Cricket: SLC elections set to be served in four months says Sports Minister

Monday, 10 September 2018 Sport

New regulations giving rise to an independent Election Committee (EC) will be gazetted this week, allowing Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) to hold their long overdue polls in the next four months, Sports Minister Faiszer Mustapha said. 

The new regulations are being drafted by the Attorney General’s (AG) Department and see the appointment of three-member EC comprising two retired judges of the High Court or higher and one public official with experience in conducting polls. 

SLC elections, earlier scheduled for May 31, are on hold even after the Court of Appeal vacated an interim injunction suspending them. 

The main reason is the Minister wanting to lay the groundwork for a free-and-fair process by cleaning up the stables beforehand. 

‘I have entrusted Sumathi Dharmawardena [Senior Deputy Solicitor General] to do the amendments," he said. 

"Once they are received, I will immediately gazette them and follow the process to call for nominations." 

Dharmawardena was in the Sri Lankan delegation headed by the Sports Minister that met with ICC in Dubai late last month to negotiate for the international body's previous deadline for elections extended. After "cordial" talks, the ICC agreed to a February 9 date. 

“When I met the ICC, it shocked their conscience that an appeal from the Election Committee, under current procedure, goes to the Minister, and that Minister can accept or reject it," Mustapha said. 

“I said I couldn't continue that. I will appoint three Court of Appeal or Supreme Court judges and delegate these functions to them, and I would be bound by their decision." 

"Secondly, most Elections Committees today are generally appointed by people who are partisan," he continued. 

"This applies across the board. To create an independent mechanism, therefore, I have decided to appoint three retired High Court judges or above, but the ICC suggested that we add at least one member with experience in conducting elections." 

Under existing regulations, the EC is appointed by the general membership of the respective sports body at a special general meeting. 

The Minister said this allows partisanship to creep in. 

The new regulations, he insisted, will lead to the independence and integrity. 

The eligibility criteria of the candidate and voters will be scrutinised. 

This, the Minister believes, will address most election-related issues. 

Prevailing rules also allow the Secretary of a sports association to accept nominations. 

These are later handed over to the EC to continue the election process but the new regulations will see the EC taking over the entire process from calling of nominations to the announcement of election results, as suggested by the ICC. 

The EC will be appointed by the general membership of the respective association but they must follow stipulated guidelines to appoint qualified people. 

“What I am concerned about is the selection of members to the appellate body," Minister Mustapha said. 

"I am very keen to get supremely independent people so that no one will accuse me of partisanship. This is why we are going to get retired Supreme Court Judges." 

Interim Committee vs Competent Authority 

Lawyers argued passionately that the appointment of a Competent Authority (CA) was illegal but the Minister, also a President's Counsel, rejected their contentions as having no basis. 

One vehement critic was lawyer Panduka Keerthinanda. 

The Sports Ministry's Legal Adviser under former Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage was largely responsible for promulgating a set of intrusive and restrictive regulations back in 2013 which were later subjected to drastic changes following pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). 

Sports Law No 25 of 1973 has provision under Sections 32 and 33 for the Sports Minister to make “interim arrangements” in the event of a suspension or cancellation of the registration of a National Sports Association (NSA). Sports Minister Mustapha's gazette issued in May 31, 2018, appointing the CA refers, however, to Section 41 which empowers him to make regulations. 

“If you look at section 32 of the Sports Law of 1973, you can appoint an interim committee when a sports body is suspended or revoked," he explained. 

"So I have not suspended or revoked Sri Lanka Cricket." 

“I want to tell those people who point fingers at me to read Section 32 carefully," he continued. 

"I have neither suspended nor revoked Sri Lanka Cricket. But Sri Lanka Cricket office bearers did not come into existence because of a court order. I wanted Sri Lanka Cricket to continue. In terms of Section 41, the Minister can assign powers and functions to any individual or organization to carry out the day-to-day affairs. All earlier Ministers suspended or revoked SLC. Why should I do that when Sri Lanka Cricket has done no wrong?" 

The appointment of a CA means the minister is virtually in-charge of the billion-rupee business. 

He admits his actions during the last three months has given him political mileage but said he got it by doing the right thing. 

“I never wanted to take over Sri Lanka Cricket but I was compelled to do so following the court order.," he explained. 

"People can find fault. But I think in these three months I have done more than any other Sports Minister. Of course, I have gained political mileage but it’s by doing the right thing. What is wrong with getting school children to watch these matches? What is wrong with getting injured war heroes to come and watch these matches? I think I have done my best."

Cricket: SLC elections set to be served in four months says Sports Minister